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Leonard J. Arrington Diaries – “Church Politics”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Church Politics.” You can view other subjects here.

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I used to be in politics at my university.  I ran for office and learned what one is up against.  I always hated politics and politicians, but I suffered for three long years under a system of discrimination and graft, in which the ruling fraternity caste would packet all the lucrative offices and jobs in the student body, and would insure their continuance in office by all manner of dishonest practices.  It appeared during this time that you couldn’t get in without playing ball with the boys.

Well, a few of us got mighty tired of that kind of a set up.  We decided that the system had to be changed.  Everybody had heard that graft was going on, that there was favoritism and discrimination practiced in the dishing out of jobs.  A few of us decided to rebel against it and see if we couldn’t prove the thing.  A friend and I skipped school for two whole weeks and dug up evidence—12 pages worth of facts and 20 witnesses.  We threatened the guilty fellows with expulsion if they refused to confess.  But meanwhile a student body election had taken place.  Because we couldn’t prove our side, the same old group were returned to office.  But two weeks after election, we managed to secure facts, which proved that the election ballot box had been stuffed by 300 ballots.  The outgoing and incoming student body presidents and two leading council members were guilty.  As all of them but one were seniors, we asked the President of the University to be lenient.  He expelled one person, declared the election invalid, called a new one.  My friend was elected overwhelmingly as the new student body president.  I served as a council member.  We had shown that politics can be politics and still be honest.  We had held the old style of politics up to ridicule and shame.  We changed the system.  Nobody knows how long the “New Deal” will last.  But it convinced me that in the long run, right will triumph.

These were some of the things that came to my mind during the show.  I have also wondered whether there was anything in the show for me, as a teacher of economics.  Could it be possible that I, a young initiate into economics, was being started along the old traditional lines, and that I would have to go along compromising with the truth, with the important things in life, just as my teachers and their teachers had done?  Would I have to turn out to be a stuffy old Professor dishing out stuff that students didn’t care about and wouldn’t use the rest of their lives?

Goodness knows that the Profs are all right as men.  They are swell!  But aren’t they caught in a system of academic traditional nonsense, just as the good Senators in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON were caught in a system of political traditional corruption?  And would I have to compromise in order to stay on?  As I look back on what I have tried to teach, I can see that most of it is what my teacher taught me, and what his teacher in turn had taught him , and so on back to Adam Smith.  I got away from the traditional mould once in a while and spoke about some of the things my youngsters wanted to know about, something that had been a part of their experience and will play a greater part in the future.  But in talking of cost curves, etc. with diagram and mathematics, etc. they are getting away from anything that is now a part of their experience or ever will be.

[LJAD, ca. November, 1939]

Tuesday evening

Last night I didn’t get so very much sleep, probably because I had read so many things yesterday that my mind was in a whirl, and I couldn’t relax.  After classes this morning, I went to get a haircut and also saw Mr. Ed King about the room for Conference.  We chatted a long time about different religions, especially the Quakers, the Seventh-Day Adventists, and the Mormons.  He wants me to give a talk to his Y boys this fall about Mormonism.  After dinner I went home and slept for an hour and returned to the office and read through some old Fortune magazines until supper.  A letter came from Mother, which I must remember to let Grace read, even though it did disappoint me a little bit.  Regardless of what she says, and regardless of the Independence of our ways and judgments, I know that as soon as she sees Grace, she will fall in love with her so much that nothing else will matter.  When you find the right one, and know that she is the right one, other things pale into insignificance.  After supper I went over to the library to get something on the Chemical industry, as another background for my book.  In the basement I met Champ and Kay.  It is amazing how all our young folks do so many things together.  Marion and Jane.  Nyle and Martha, Russell and June.  Champ and Kay.  Go to work together, read together, go to the library to get books and read together—indeed, do everything together.  There is nothing, which can cause their interests to stray from each other because they stick together in everything.  They are true pals.  I had a good long talk with them about the Church in the West, its need for progressive leadership, and what we can do about it when we get West.  Champ believes that Mormonism is a religion of the poor and that the Church leaders (who are also the business executives and civic leaders of the State) deliberately keep earnings down so they can hold the members.  We also talked about the temple ceremony and about temple garments.  The marriage ritual is beautiful, they said, but most of the rest of it is quite simple and old-fashioned, and provokes tittering more than impressiveness.  As for garments, well, they used to, but don’t any more.  Champ and Kay have some good ideas on it for Grace, I guess.  But to get the Church’s side of it she ought to talk to Marion.  I asked them to drop by the office when they left the library and we’d go and get a milkshake.  I came back to the office around 8:30 and read about the chemical industry until after ten, when Champ and Kay came by.  We had a milkshake, and I got some books for Kay to read.  Returned to office at 11 o’clock, and read till 12.  Now signing off.

[LJAD, July 7, 1942]

Fourth went to Salt Lake City a couple of times for research in the Church Archives, and also had a couple of meetings of our committee to study a program of sex education for the Logan schools.  I continue to find out some interesting things in Church History.  I may be giving a class at the Institute in the evening with some of the findings during the school year.

[LJAD, letter to James, 4 July 1969]

You asked how I became involved in this sex education committee.  You know that the John Birch Society started a campaign last spring against the manner in which “Communists” were trying to introduce degenerative practices, including sex education in the schools.  Then, three speakers at the April general conference (Apostles Peterson, Benson, and Prest Dyer) made references to it in their talks.  So a few people (principally John Birchers) got all excited and tried to get the schools to quit their programs.  Created quite a stir in Ogden, Pasadena, and a few other places.  Even tried to “take over” a local PTA and pass a resolution against it, but didn’t succeed.   Anyway, the school board of the city decided to appoint a committee to study it.  Appointed 15 people, with myself as one.  Then the committee met and elected me chairman.  So that’s how.  We’ve been having weekly meetings, and listening to what people have to say.  At one of our meetings the actual presentation of films and lecture before the class was given us.  Pretty mild stuff, I would say.  I couldn’t see anything wrong with it except that the film was out-of-date, and they failed to say anything about some of the problems Jr. Hi. Kids get exposed to like V.D., exhibitionists, homosexuality, etc.  Frankly, people who have been critical of our program don’t even know what it is.  Anyway, some of these days we will have finished with hearing all the evidence, considering all the facts, and will write the report.  We will try to finish by about Thanksgiving or Christmas time.  It has been good for me because I am learning what I should have been doing in the home.  The Church has more or less softpedaled the talks given in conference, and taken a middle of the road position.  Anyway, the Church has never officially taken a position one way or the other, and President Dyer now says he was speaking only about the abuses, not about the principle.  They are planning a unit for the Family Home Evening where they will discuss sex problems.  I’ll be interested to see how that works out.  According to our study, less than 10 percent of the homes have “educated” their children on sex.  The school has to do something.

[LJAD, letter to James, 27 July 1969]

The only problem that frustrates one in working for the Church are the bureaucratic policies and procedures that were worked out when the Church office staff was small and the budget was miserly.  The bureaucratic system of the Church is far more inflexible than that of a university or large corporation.  Moreover the respect for authority, which dominates the philosophy of members of the Church, makes it difficult for a person to exercise his own judgment and initiative.  Moreover a General Authority when approached on the matter will normally react in terms of what has been the way this was always done and what is the cheapest alternative.  My reaction to these restraints is to keep uppermost the job to be done and not worry excessively about how the job is accomplished.  If accomplishing the job upsets bureaucratic procedures, then down with the procedures!

I know that many people, perhaps a majority of people in the Church bureaucracy, are adamant against this attitude and point of view.  I must confess that I get a certain amount of joy in the little intrigues, which are intended to overcome the stupidities of bureaucratic inefficiency.  This sort of thing, according to my rationale, has nothing to do with morality, but only with efficiency—getting the job done properly and speedily.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday 15 June 1972]

It is interesting to observe the manner in which the status symbols of the corporate world have infiltrated into the bureaucratic system of the Church.  Persons of a certain rank are entitled to rugs.  For instance, General Authorities, but no others by and large, are entitled to bathrooms adjoining their offices.  There are four sizes of desks depending on rank—large desks for General Authorities, not quite as large for persons of my rank, still smaller for Assistant Church Historians and the Historical Associates, still smaller for Historical Assistants and other staff.  And our chairs are similarly graded with big pretentious armchairs for General Authorities, not quite so pretentious for Church Historians, still smaller for Church Associates, still smaller for ordinary staff and secretaries.  Persons of certain ranks are entitled to credenzas—others not.  Persons of certain rank are entitled to filing cabinets, others not.  Even in the matter of secretaries, General Authorities are entitled to Executive Secretaries, persons of my rank senior secretaries, Assistant Church Historians are entitled to secretaries, and presumably those still lower are entitled to typists.  Every one of these, of course, is paid a certain salary based on the rank.  Even the secretaries are entitled to certain status symbols based on their bosses rank.  I suppose if there were a Mormon tea, the secretaries of persons of lower rank would have to stand when the secretaries of General Authorities entered the room.

All of his sounds so strange in the Gospel setting where we are all brothers—where a janitor may be the bishop of a corporation president—where this is not at all rare.  The Church employees are very rank conscious, however.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday 19 June 1972]

15 July 1972 – Saturday

Dear Carlos:

Today is the first day without a big deadline on me, so I’ll take this opportunity.  First, a rundown on my work.  Unquestionable, the Church Historian job is the most exciting job a historian could wish for.  To have a whole archive of original material, which few people have examined carefully, to have a personal staff of professional young historians to do research, to have a budget that will permit the normal traveling to professional conventions and church conferences—just imagine!  Fine people to work with, fine subjects to research and write about.  Very exciting.  Only two drawbacks.  The first is the traditionalist church bureaucracy who binds us with so many rules and regulations.  These aren’t impossible, but they are irritating.  The second is the work I am committed to do to complete the research already started at USU and to help things get going in the BYU Center for Western Studies.  Plus getting acquainted with Salt Lake City.  Plus obligations to be civil to friends who waste one’s time.

[LJAD, letter written to Carl Arrington, Saturday 15 July 1972]

L.J.A. DIARY, JULY 18, 1972

The church moves like an iceberg, in the decision-making process.  So slowly, so carefully, so cautiously.  No decision is made unless it has to be made.  They will not answer questions unless they must do so immediately.  The General Authorities clip the wings of ambitious men (Dyer); and adventurous thinkers (Brown).  The General Authorities really have very little power.  They are essentially messenger boys.  The real decisions are made by only three or four people—the members of the First Presidency who are willing to exercise it (Lee), and perhaps one or two of the apostles who are willing to exercise it (Romney).

The church suffers from the boomerang effect of criticism.  It will not allow criticism within the church, so it is abnormally sensitive to criticism that comes from without the church.  Will not allow a direct vote on officers, either local or general; will not allow a free press; strives to suppress a free press; and so a little criticism that comes has a magnified effect; therefore it is super cautious.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday 18 July 1972]

I continue to be irritated by the little regulations of the bureaucracy, like for instance we must buy cheap bond paper and none of the good bond paper that we are accustomed to using for our manuscripts.  But I have decided to be reconciled with these little irritants, particularly since Earl in his finance and accounting and budgeting supervisorship has never once even made any substantive suggestions about the writing and publishing of history and historical sources.  He seems to regard my own decisions as completely final in the matter of what we can write and what we can publish.  However, he wants me to explain every long distance telephone call.  I don’t ask him to explain his long distance calls, and I don’t know why he should expect me to do it to him.  It is obvious that long distance telephone calls were few and far between in previous years.  That is the result of an inactive acquisitions policy in which the Church simply received items people donated, but did not seek actively to acquire items that they were informed might be available.  But now with our department pursing an active policy of acquiring records, even though that is not our primary responsibility, and with our active research, writing, and publishing activities, we make rather a considerable number of long distance calls, and he should expect and understand this.  However, as I mentioned these are irritants to which we are reconciled and particularly since we have virtually a free hand in our research, writing, and publishing activities.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday 21 July 1972]

Today I was invited to lunch at the Lion House Pantry by Brian Kelly, Editor, and Lowell Durham, Jr., Associate Editor, of the New Era.  They made the following points during the luncheon discussion.

As to what they can publish in the New Era they use their own judgment, which must then be checked by Brother Green, which must then be checked with the Correlation Committee.  Where there are serious disagreements between them and the Correlation Committee, these are then submitted for a decision to the three members of the Quorum of the Twelve—Thomas Monson, Gordon Hinckley, and Boyd Packer.  There are definitely certain things they cannot do.  For example:

(2) They said the most common question asked by young people in the Church is whether it is all right to pierce their ears.   They said they get dozens of letters from young people every week and the volume of such letters is greater than all other letters on all other questions.  Yet they cannot run a question and answer column on this because the brethren are divided on it.  They cannot even run an article saying the brethren are divided.  The Church, therefore, doesn’t have any definite opinion on the issue.  Apparently, the attitudes toward this matter are emotionally held.  Some parents feel that piercing the ears is almost equivalent to sexual immorality or at least a step in that direction.  On the other hand, other people feel that it is appropriate and has nothing to do with religion or Mormonism.

Brother Kelly says that the attitude of some people resembles that of some Church officials toward the dying of hair in the 1920s and 30s.  Some people still feel that it is immoral to dye your hair.  I was surprised about this matter (ear piercing) because I had never heard anyone discuss it.  But they contend that it is a very strong issue in many families, neighborhoods, and wards, yet they cannot respond in any way to the issue because of the division among the brethren.

(3) The seminary system has adopted a policy of teaching all students the same topic in a given year.  This year all seminary students of every age are studying the New Testament.  Next year, they say, all seminary students of every age will be studying Church history.  Isn’t it interesting that I find this out from the Editor of New Era magazine and that nobody has contacted us about playing any role in preparing materials suitable for students to be used next fall in seminary classes in Church history?  Beginning next September or October, a year from now, the New Era will carry each month something on Church history to help them with the seminary instruction, and he hopes we will help supply him with interesting articles, documents, and stories which are related to Church history.  I told him that we would do so.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Tuesday, 12 September 1972]

At 2:00 Laura Castano came by to say that Brother and Sister Dyer were downstairs and would like to see the facilities in the new office building.  Dennis Wilde and I went down with her to go through the facilities with them.  Sister Dyer was driving a new large black Cadillac.  We got the wheelchair out of the trunk and put Brother Dyer in there and wheeled Brother Dyer around through the various rooms.  Dennis wheeled Brother Dyer and explained what the rooms and facilities would be used for, while Laura and I walked along with Sister Dyer to explain to her and get better acquainted with her.  This was the first time that I had seen Brother Dyer since last April.  He was wearing dark glasses both inside and outside the building.  He was thinner, looked older and wrinkled; his eyes looked a little glazed.  He talked quite a bit, but we could understand virtually everything that he said.  His voice was not very different—perhaps a little higher level.  He rolled some words together.  His memory seemed to be perfect.  He didn’t seem to have lost anything that he knew before and seemed to be clear and brilliant as before.  He did not want to talk business with us but expressed his thanks at the letters that I had sent him, the greetings, at the manner in which we were proceeding ahead with everything and expressed complete confidence in what we were doing.  He seemed to be jovial and happy, as did his wife.  She is a fast talker and says quickly most everything that is in her mind.

She says some things she shouldn’t say.  While Laura was doing some business with Brother Dyer after we had seen the facilities, Sister Dyer talked to me while sitting behind the wheel of the Cadillac, and I was standing next to her outside the car.  She said her children Gloria and Brent have been told and believe that part of their father’s physical trouble was caused by the failure to recognize him in the Quorum of the Twelve.  She said that while he was a member of the First Presidency, President Smith and Jessie, who had been close family friends of the Dyers for many years, asked to come out to see them and while they were there President Smith went on with the many wonderful promises of Brother Dyer.  Sister Dyer did not say so expressly but inferred that President Smith said that Brother Dyer would be appointed a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and have important responsibilities and serve as a member of the First Presidency and so on.  President McKay in making Brother Dyer a member of the First Presidency told him that he would become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and ordained him to be an apostle.  When President McKay died, Sister Dyer said within a matter of a day the TV and newspaper world were bringing the message into their home that Brother Dyer was back among the Assistants to the Apostles.  Sister Dyer inferred that this was President Lee’s doing.  She said that President McKay had been bright in his mind up until the end but this was not true of President Smith.  Physically he was strong and able, but he was not always clear in his mind.  After President McKay’s death, she said, the Church was essentially run by President Lee, and President Lee was responsible for putting Brother Dyer back among the Assistants rather than with the Quorum of the Twelve.  People continued to ask Sister and Brother Dyer what happened—why?  And what could she say—what could he say?  She said she would not go through that experience again for anything.  Their experience in the Central States Mission was a happy one, but the experience that lead to his appointment as an Assistant Apostle, his ordination as an Apostle, his service in the First Presidency, his demotion back to an Assistant—she would not go through that again.  It was past and she didn’t want it resurrected.  She wouldn’t want him to be in the Quorum of the Presidency again, even if he were asked.  She seemed to be very bitter and outspoken about it.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, 31 October 1972]


This morning I telephoned Jim Mortimer of Deseret Book about Mike Quinn’s project to make records from archival material of the prophets.  In the course of our discussion, Jim mentioned the following.

He has approval of his board to proceed immediately with the publication of the Brigham Young letters to sons and the Joseph Smith and Emma correspondence.  Apparently he will have to submit each one of his projects to his board.  From remarks made by the two apostles on his board, Brother Monson and Brother Ashton, he infers that the General Authorities are very cautious about approving things until they know more about what President Lee will approve and disapprove.  None of them wants to get on President Lee’s list, and Jim says they infer that once you get on his list, you never get off.  This makes Jim more cautious than he otherwise would be.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Thursday, 16 November 1972]


Ron Esplin came in this morning and said that Brit McConkie had told him that he had had lunch with Bruce McConkie and Boyd Packer on Friday.  Brit brought up the matter of the Friends of Church History.  Bruce had said that he would have come to the meeting if they hadn’t had the discussion in the Twelve about it.  He seemed to think it might be worthwhile. Brother Packer was very doubtful of the wisdom of having the organization—thought it would be a Dialogue-type program that would rake over old controversial subjects and stir up trouble and mistrust.  Brit said very freely that he believed that it was a good thing and Bruce seemed to want to agree with him, but Brother Packer sort of cringed.  On the basis of the conversation, Ron feels that eventually we are going to get the OK.

Brit told Ron that he had dealt with the Church officials for about 20 years and that there are certain brethren on the Twelve who are extremely cautious about anything.  When you want something accomplished you have to go to the First Presidency because the Twelve will not universally approve anything unless the First Presidency are willing to give their sanction.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 4 December 1972]

I think I know now the origin of the suspicion directed toward the Frederick G. Williams article in BYU Studies.  Chuck Tate had been working with the author to present something, which showed the human side of Frederick G. Williams, and he had explained how the prophet had chosen him.  But it was not so favorable that it would be embarrassing to explain how the Church happened to dump him.

Chuck Tate said by telephone yesterday that he asked Stan Cazier to read the paper in manuscript and Stan had written a rather long critique of it, objecting to the treatment of revelation and to other matters.  It is possible that Stan mentioned this to President Lee when they met in Chico—that Stan voiced his criticisms of the piece, then President Lee saw that it had been published and perhaps was impatient with BYU Studies for publishing the article despite Stan’s criticisms.  President Lee could then have passed this on to Brother Anderson and asked him to read it.  Brother Anderson, under the impression that President Lee didn’t like the article, [illegible] in it.  So that may very well be the origin of the complains against this article which to me was completely unobjectionable.


[LJAD, LJA Diary, Friday, 15 December 1972]

President Dallin Oaks of BYU telephoned this morning to say that a faculty committee had recommended an honorary degree for Juanita Brooks, and said that he did not want to recommend anyone to the First Presidency or other members of the Board if any of them had reservations about the proposed recipient.  I told him that BYU had approved her as a lecturer in our Redd series and that she was delivering the lecture next month and in this sense she was receiving deserved recognition.  Perhaps that was all BYU needed to do this year.

I also pointed out that Utah State University had given her an honorary degree and that might be considered.  Thirdly, I said that it was my understanding that President Lee, who has a long memory, felt that she was willful and disobedient in publishing in the face of their request that she not do so that John D. Lee’s blessings had been restored.  I also said that it was my understanding that Brother Stapley felt very strongly about Juanita’s disobedience in this and other occasions.  President Oaks said he appreciated my frankness on this matter and said that it was possible for him to recommend against her on the grounds that she had already received an honorary degree from USU and on the grounds of her status as a Redd lecturer, and that he would recommend against her on these grounds without betraying the confidence that I had passed on to him about the feelings of President Lee and Brother Stapley.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Monday, 29 January 1973]

I’m feeling a little discouraged about getting some of our Church History programs through.  Brother Dyer was so great a support and help that I guess we were spoiled.  We submit programs to Elder Anderson, he submits them on to Elder Hunter, he submits them on to the Quorum, and so on.  And nothing ever gets done.  But I suppose I should be patient.  And we have plenty to do without new programs.  Maybe I ought to concentrate on writing and not try to be so ambitious in starting new things.

[LJAD, Letter written to James and Susan, Saturday, 17 February 1973]

April 9, 1973

Elder Boyd K. Packer

Council of the Twelve

Room 217

Church Administration Building

Dear Brother Packer:

Grace and I wish to express to you in writing what we mentioned orally in our brief meeting with you in conference, that we thought your conference talk “To the Children” was superb.

You have many fine qualities—we have always admired you—and one of the greatest of these is your teaching talent.  The talk you gave at the October session to the young people of the Church about sex, if we may refer to it by using that worldly term, and your talk to the Primary children on the plan of salvation were among the two finest examples of teaching that I have ever heard.  The use of your fingers and gloves also reflected this superb teaching effectiveness.

May the Lord continue to bless you with your work.


Leonard J. Arrington


[LJAD, Letter written to Elder Boyd K. Packer, 9 April 1973]

When I was meeting with the Utah Academy Board of Fellows yesterday, Sterling McMurrin told a story about President Tanner that is worth recording.  The Church had put a considerable sum into the reconstruction of the Pioneer Memorial Theater, and when they came to the end of the campaign a considerable sum of money needed to be raised.  President Tanner volunteered to raise that last sum of money.  As they held a meeting of persons of considerable wealth to try to obtain donations, some persons in the group began to raise a question, “Should we be trying to furnish money to this group which have put on some filthy plays, used obscene language in plays, and had smoking on the stage, and so on?”  According to Sterling, when two or three others started saying yes or amen, President Tanner cut them off very sharply.  He said, “We are not here to talk about that; we are here to talk about raising money,” and he would not permit any further complaints of that matter.

Keith Engar then told a story about President McKay and the theater.  They had produced “The Male Animal”’ in which the leading actor gets gradually drunk throughout the play.  President Olpin noted that there were two prominent LDS leaders—President McKay and one other (he probably mentioned who it was, but I don’t recall.)  The next morning after the play, one of the other leading Church members telephoned Keith Engar (who produced the play) to say what a terrible thing it was to be producing a play of that nature.  Shortly after his call President McKay telephoned and said, “I saw your play last night.  It was marvelously done.  I was particularly struck with the talent of the lead actor and the marvelous way in which he portrayed a person getting slowly drunk.  You know, Brother Engar, that is not an easy thing to do, and I was pleased to see how well he handled the part.”  This said Keith, helps to demonstrate the broad-gauged nature of the higher Church authorities.

Keith says that in his many years of directing plays he has had absolutely no attempt by the Church to exercise censorship or influence the plays that they have produced and the manner in which they have done it, and he has also mentioned the support that the Church has given to the University of Utah theater program.

[LJAD, LJA Diary, Wednesday, 27 June 1973]

Elder Boyd K. Packer 

Council of the Twelve 

Room 307 

Church Administration Building

Dear Elder Packer:

You have the capacity to discuss the most delicate and controversial topics in a persuasive, dignified, and inspiring way.

Congratulations–and thanks.


Leonard J. Arrington

[LJA to Elder Boyd K. Packer; LJA Diary, 8 Oct., 1973]

Leonard J. Arrington

Church Historian

Dear Leonard:

It was so thoughtful of you to write as you did following our last general conference. To have your expressions and your commendations and the comparison you have made with regard to the Saturday night priesthood meeting, will only serve to encourage me to try harder to measure to the high appraisal of my humble efforts.

Thank you for the great service you are rendering. You have my admiration and my commendation.

Very sincerely yours,

Harold B. Lee

[Harold B. Lee to LJA; LJA Diary, 15 Oct., 1973]

Mr. and Mrs. Leonard J. Arrington 

2236 South 2200 East 

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Leonard and Grace:

We surely did enjoy the pecan pies! That is a special favorite of mine and our family was very appreciative of your kindness.

We hope you had a happy holiday season and pray the Lord to continue His blessings upon you.


Boyd K. Packer

[Boyd K. Packer to LJA; LJA Diary, 2 Jan., 1974]

Last week Brother Joseph Anderson showed up with his mustache shaved off. He has worn that mustache for something like fifty years. It was a little trimmed mustache that was not very noticeable, and he began wearing it when he was secretary of the First Presidency in 1920s. We asked him if his wife approved. He said, “No, she definitely does not approve.” “Why you have worn that for more than forty years, and I liked you the way you were.” He said his son had complained about it also. His son said, “This is the first time I have ever seen you without that mustache and you don’t seem like Father.”

We asked him why he shaved it off. He said that he had done it as the result of the insistence of the brethren on those standards for students at BYU. Since he was the only General Authority with a mustache, he thought he wouldn’t give them any cause for embarrassment by keeping it. He said some weeks ago he was talking with a couple of the General Authorities about it. He timidly and half-humorously raised the question, “Do you think I ought to shave it off?” Brother Stapley said, “Yes, Joseph, I think you should” and said it strongly. Brother LeGrand Richards said “Joseph, why should you shave it off? You have worn it a long, long time. That would be silly.” Well, apparently with President Kimball becoming president and with Brother Stapley his friend becoming more influential, and with persons like Brother Stapley and Brother Packer feeling strongly about setting a proper example before the youth, he had decided to shave it off.

Such are the perils of being a General Authority. 

[LJA Diary, 1 Mar., 1974]

Two things to report. The first is that Maureen received a letter of appointment as a writer for the instructional development group in the Church.  The letter indicated this was a Church service position. She was to resign all other Church positions and it was signed by Bruce McConkie, Boyd Packer, Marvin Ashton, and Tom Monson. Maureen is now a Sunday School teacher with her husband Dale in her ward. We were all delighted with this appointment.

Later during the morning I learned that a condition had been attached. This was apparently passed on from Bruce McConkie to Earl Olson and from Earl Olson to me. This condition was that she not publish any articles in Dialogue or Woman’s Exponent II or be involved or associated with them in any official capacity during the period of her appointment which is “indefinite.” The indefinite appointment suggests that she may be asked to write other manuals in addition to the Relief Society manual which she is to direct for the coming year.

Under the appointment she is to write a series of lessons about outstanding historical Relief Society personalities. This first draft is to be finished by May and the complete work is to be finished by September. At that time she may or may not be released from the group.

I told Earl that I was sure Maureen would comply with the requirement. Maureen, of course, has had her article on Eliza R. Snow as an enigma accepted by Dialogue and they had planned to publish it in the next issue. She was pleased that it was to be published there. However, she telephoned Bob Rees and asked him to withdraw it. In consultation with me she suggested three possibilities as a replacement for her article: (1) Larry Foster’s piece on the origin of polygamy in Nauvoo; {2) Kathryn Hanson Shirts’ artic1e on Mormonism and revivalism; (3) Phyllis Southwick’s paper on Emmeline B. Wells  given at the University of Utah.

The most peculiar thing is that all members of the Twelve had signed her appointment before she had made any commitment in regard to Dialogue and Exponent II.  If the appointment was conditional, why didn’t they wait until she had been contacted and had agreed?  What if she had gone ahead with the article in Dialogue.  Basically this shows a certain confidence in our own policing and disciplining mechanism which is positive.

[LJA Diary, 17 Dec., 1974]

President Tanner has been working with Brother Bickmore on restructuring the organization of the Church in the central level. Specifically they are going to make new committee assignments to representatives of the Quorum of the Twelve and it is their purpose to reduce the administrative responsibilities of the General Authorities. Specifically they will probably reduce the number of advisors from the Quorum of the Twelve on any committee to two and they will probably avoid members of the Quorum being administrators of any agency, division or chairman of any committee or department. This will leave them freer to move about the Church counselling, reorganizing and so on. This will also leave them freer in counselling strong department heads, who will be appointed.

As a part of this President Tanner has asked Brother Hunter to have us do a historical study of the First Presidency and Twelve in the history of the Church and Brother Hunter referred it to Earl. Earl referred it to Don and Don referred it to me and so I am to appoint a member of our staff to work fulltime on this project for two, three, or four weeks and have a summary report ready for President Tanner’s use. They apparently want to make the new committee appointments of the Twelve in January and so would like to have our report sometime in January if possible. I have thought of Dean May, Jim Allen, and Davis Bitton to do the study. Jim and Davis were not in yesterday, and so I was not able to talk with them about it. I hate to talk with Dean May until talking with them first. That they are asking us for these historical studies shows confidence and awareness of our work.

They have also asked us to do a study of the understanding Church leaders have had about what kind of temples should be built. There is apparently a feeling that the day of building temples as monuments for eternity is at an end. We are spread all over the world and it will be too expensive to build monuments all over. Thought is therefore being given to building endowment rooms where the film will be used in connection with ward chapels, stake centers and nice homes. In that way they would be able to do ordinance work in many parts of the world convenient to the habitations of members without an inordinate expense. We have a feeling that they wish to announce construction of a temple in Brazil at the time of the area conference and also in Japan at the time of the area conference there. We also think they would like to make an announcement soon of the construction of a temple in the Pacific Northwest, in New York City, and Chicago. They perhaps would like to have one in Mexico but there are real problems with the government which they may not be able to work out.

Dave Mayfield has supervised an exhaustive summary of materials available on this subject and I have assigned Bill Hartley to write up an essay and he is to have it ready within a week. Bill is to devote fulltime to this project.

In connection with Church organization one basic question they want answered is whether the Presiding Bishopric report to the Twelve or to the First Presidency and some suggestion on that will need to be made by whomever does the study.

[LJA Diary, 18 Dec., 1974]

Last Friday I drove to BYU for a meeting with vice president Bob Thomas, Frank Fox, and Ernest Wilkinson. We met from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. In the course of this meeting Ernest Wilkinson made some comments which are worth recording in this diary. 

In President Wilkinson’s judgment President Harold B. Lee was disappointed, perhaps to some extent bitter, that he had been passed over four times to be a member of the First Presidency of the Church. This at a time when he was obviously destined to become president of the Church. President McKay preferred to have older men that had been associated with him when he was a younger apostle.

President Moyle, when a member of the First Presidency, used his power freely. He might telephone somebody to put somebody on a committee or in an important position or to remove somebody preemptorily or have this bought or that sold. He was very free wheeling in his use of his position to achieve goals which he thought should be achieved, even to some extent when he knew President McKay might oppose it.

On the other hand, President Moyle did not harbor grudges nor was he vindictive and if you disagreed with him or defeated him, he did not hold it against you. This was not true of President Lee and Boyd Packer, both of whom have long memories and found it difficult to forgive and forget. 

[LJA Diary, 24 Feb., 1975]

I was told over the weekend that the fourteenth Article of Faith for the Church Historian should be: “I believe it is easier to repent than to ask permission.”

[LJA Diary, 30 Jun., 1975]

In his address which preceded his dedication of the BYU Law School, President Romney told a story of his early life in the Church. He had been appointed Assistant to the Twelve and manager of the Church Welfare Program. From time to time important matters came up which he attempted to clear with President Clark and the First Presidency. Occasionally he received no response to [from] the First Presidency and he used to go in and plead with them to give him an answer, and if he continued to plead long enough and wait patiently, he eventually would get an answer. He finally decided they didn’t want to be bothered and decided to decide on his own and give them the opportunity of vetoing his policy before he put it into effect. He wrote a letter to President Clark and the First Presidency saying that he had been presented with such and such a problem which needed immediate solution, and he thought the answer was clear and explained what he planned to do and then he said, if I hear from you by such and such a time, I’ll assume you have no objections and I’ll go ahead and do it.

Shortly after writing the letter, he received a telephone call from President Clark saying, “Hello, Kid. Since when have you decided to tell the First Presidency what should be done?” It was obvious President Clark was miffed at his presumption and President Clark went ahead to say, “If you write to the First Presidency and get no answer, then you must realize that that is an answer!”

When President Romney had told this story everybody laughed and he went on with his talk. To me it was not very funny. We have had some similar experiences ourselves and these experiences would suggest that it is not true that the failure of the First Presidency to answer means that that is their answer.  In many cases it simply means that they haven’t gotten around to handling the correspondence.  And, as a matter of fact, I am guilty of the same thing myself.  I have letters which I have not gotten around to answering and my failure to answer them doesn’t mean that I don’t want to answer them or that my answer would necessarily be negative.  This is government by inadvertence and where you have an aged First Presidency, a busy First Presidency, a First Presidency often away in traveling, there ought to be some mechanism for handling more or less routine requests for clearance from Church departments and organizations.  They ought to be willing to delegate authority to somebody to handle a business that they themselves are not prepared to take care of, and I ought to be doing the same thing I suppose.

[LJA Diary, 9 Sep., 1975]

I had a talk with Elder Sterling Sill about his autobiography. He would like one of our interviewers to give him a series of oral history taped interviews which might be used in connection with the expansion of his autobiography. In the discussion he mentioned we have things that I should like to record:

(1) In his twenty-one years as a General Authority, he has been called in only twice for a discussion of his work, both by Elder Benson and both in the last year. He said to President McKay one time: “Do you mind if I tell you what is the worst thing about you?” He then went ahead to say that it was the fact that President McKay never called in people like him to discuss their work. He said the president of New York Life once a quarter stayed two or three days with him talking about his work, building up his confidence, giving him incentives, and so on. He thinks the administration of the church should do the same thing.

(2) He said that because they do not keep in regular touch with what General Authorities and department managers and directors are doing, they are not fully informed as to what is going on in the church. He also mentioned that some complaint by a crank or misguided person may shape their attitude toward somebody because they do not have any basis for knowing whether the complaint is justified, nor do they confront the person about whom the complaint is made.

Brother Sill said he had spent much of his time explaining to stake presidents how to release bishops, high priests presidents, and others to keep them from being hurt by being released. And yet he has been released on at least two occasions without anyone discussing it with him or notifying him, and he found it out only later when his replacement showed up.

He also mentioned a time when a certain member of the First Presidency asked him to go down to be the president of a California mission. Brother Sill pointed out that he had been told by President McKay that he was supposed to retain his job with New York Life and that was inconsistent with accepting a call to this mission even temporarily. The councilor told him he ought to go, and he asked the privilege of discussing it first with President McKay. He did discuss it with President McKay. President McKay told him not to accept the call to the mission, and he should remain in Salt Lake and retain the job. He said, “Should I tell that to your councilor?” President McKay said, “No, I will straighten that out with him” Later on this councilor saw Brother Sill and looked at him very hard and painfully and said, “I’ll get you yet.” He also said that it is not pleasant to be a General Authority and have to listen to the confidential stories of members of the Church who have been treated badly or who have sinned horribly. It makes you feel bad about people and the Church and what goes on.

In essence he was telling me that he did not dare tell all the full story of his experiences of being a General Authority or bishop, since all of his experiences were not happy ones and some of them involve people who are still living. 

[LJA Diary, 30 Oct., 1975]

I sense that there are two basic types of church administrators: those whose primary purpose is to do the will of the Brethren (presiding General Authorities) and those whose primary purpose is to do what their own experience and judgment and inspiration tells them is best for the Kingdom. The majority, I’m sure, are of the former type, but there are some of the latter type. The former type have anxieties and problems and frustrations because the brethren do not always agree, or they reverse themselves, or they make arbitrary judgments that are not always consistent with former policies and decisions. The latter type have anxieties and problems and frustrations for the same reasons, but also because they seem not to be in harmony with the Brethren, or seem to be deliberately defying some of the Brethren, or seem to be putting their own judgment on a par with that of the Brethren. Their problem is to try to use diplomacy or political skill or imagination in skirting around certain Brethren in order to achieve certain pre-determined goals. I do not wish to hide from myself or from the readers of this diary that I am the latter type of administrator, not the former type. Earl Olson is of the former type. His goal is to try to get the Brethren to rule on a given policy. He doesn’t care particularly how they rule, but he seeks a ruling and once that is made he adheres religiously to it. My own disposition is to set out goals or objectives and means of attaining those objectives and then try to achieve those within the bureaucratic or administrative structure by devising ways of skirting around those Brethren who might not necessarily support such means and goals. I regard the Brethren as having appointed me to seek proper goals, while Earl would see his function as “doing what the Brethren want me to do.” We both fashion pots according to our best ability, but he wants them to tell him what kind of pot and then makes it, while I want to use m finesse to get the” right” kind of pot as well as how it should be made. 

[LJA Diary, 17 Apr., 1977]

Friday morning early Mamma and I and James left by plane for Portland. We were met at the airport by Bob McLaren, a sociology professor at Portland Community College and LDS. He took us to the home of Bro. & Sis. Thomas Emmett, where we were all to stay. Then he came back later to take me to the annual meeting of the National Communal Society at Aurora, Oregon, about thirty miles from Portland. There I read a paper on Mormon economic idealism–the law of consecration and United Order. About 200 persons present. Talk well-received. They didn’t have a report on my talk in the Portland papers, so I guess nothing will get back to Elder Benson about me using the word “communitarian.” Mamma was with me and after the afternoon session, we stayed for the dinner, which was put on by a German Mennonite group. Mostly Russian (Ukrainian) food. Different and delicious. James put on his “Here’s Brother Brigham” in one of the stake centers that night. The usual 250 people. Good performance, but he was very tired. Among those at the show were JoAnn and Larry Bair.

[LJA to Carl & Chris, 24 Oct., 1977]

At the time of my appointment as Church Historian, and indeed many years earlier, I had an unshakable conviction that it was possible, if a man was clever enough, to write professional history which would be accepted as such by the profession, and at the same time acceptable by the intelligent LDS reader. My confidence in that conviction has been shaken during the past few months. The key is the meaning of “intelligent LDS” readers. So far as ordinary members of the church are concerned, I have the conviction still. So far as bishops and stake presidents are concerned, and even regional representatives, the same conviction. But there are three groups that will not accept professional history, no matter how carefully, discreetly, and judiciously written. These are:(l) the lunatic fringe; i.e., members of the John Birch Society and their sympathizers who do not want even to try to understand what the professional is saying. They see a communist under every bush; a “liberal” in every intelligently written “fair” book. One cannot please them regardless. (2) Certain General Authorities who are so protective of the church membership, especially the young, that they do not want any unpleasant facts revealed or acknowledged or repeated. (3) Certain persons in the church bureaucracy who are fearful that someone will not like something they read, and they therefore mention it unfavorably, disapprove it publicly, and refuse to sanction it for any use.

It is not that they disapprove of me as church historian; they would disapprove of any professional historian, any intellectual, any educated person, any independent-minded writer. They want someone like Joseph Fielding Smith, who (1) wrote little history; 2) colored history with scriptural allusions and references; and (3) obstinately refused to discuss any controversial matters. All of which means, they do not want a church historian; they want a trusted general authority who will not write history.

[LJA Diary, 18 Nov., 1977]

It is true that the atmosphere at church headquarters is like that of a Byzantine bureaucracy. Everybody is afraid of getting on Elder Benson’s hit list, to use the current expression. But if you’re already on his hit list, as the scholarly historians are, what is there to do but “do one’s duty” and proceed ahead as if being on his list is meaningless? He may not become president of the Church. And if he does, he may not be vindictive. And if he should turn out to be vindictive, is there anything an old Dialogue writer like myself could do now to avoid it? If my appointment has any purpose, I might as well fulfill that purpose and proceed as if Elder Benson was not around to throw roadblocks in our way. Horseflies are inevitably around to irritate the plowing horse. What can he do but suffer the indignity and continue plowing?

[LJA Diary, 20 Jan., 1978]

There are two aspects of church bureaucracy which seem both inevitable and

inexcusable: the blacklist and the guilt by association. If a person has incurred the enmity or distrust of any member of the Twelve, or if any member of the Twelve has at any time regarded him/her as a questionable person, the member of the Twelve will vote against him for any position. Once this has happened, his name will never again be presented, because of the likelihood that the member of the Twelve will continue to vote against him/her. (And of course one negative vote is enough to deny approval.) He is therefore not approved for anything and somehow the word of this blackballing gets to the bureaucratic heads, and so even at lower levels he/she is not recommended. This has happened to a number of people that I am aware of. Perfectly loyal people, perfectly trustworthy, devout people. The best example is Eugene England, who, as founding editor of Dialogue, incurred the enmity and distrust of Elder Benson, and has been denied the right to publish in The Ensign, to publish with Deseret Book, to serve on the staff of BYU. Voted town at least twice with all of these. Only when a man gets a vigorous champion who keeps arguing for him can this be overcome.

The other aspect is guilt by publicity or by association. A person gets his name in the paper, or in a magazine in connection with some questionable affair. He/she is not guilty, nor has anyone said so, but somehow he was “involved.” A general authority phones his boss or bishop or someone to ask about him. This is enough to brand him. A bureaucrat or bishop or stake president will assume that if the General Authority calls about him, he has questions about him. If he has questions about him, we better go slow in advancing him, If they go slow, there must be reasons for it, so other people take the cue. He is branded just because the church authority asked about him. Asking about a person signifies he is controversial, questionable, of doubtful loyalty.

[LJA Diary, 2 Feb., 1978]

The basic problems of church administration (non-ecclesiastical) narrow down to two: (a) The ultimate authority, the Quorum of the Twelve, make decisions without direct contact with the people that really know what is going on; and (b) decisions are made by members of the bureaucracy on the basis of what they suppose the Twelve would want–on the basis of some precedence. Because of the first some of the decisions of the Twelve are arbitrary and different than they would be if they had the full facts. They’re often made on the basis of hearsay evidence. If a decision is made on the basis of the work of the Historical Department, for example, they do not call in Homer Durham. They do not call in Earl Olson. They do not call in Don Schmidt, Florence Jacobsen, or myself. Often we have no idea they are even considering matters relating to us. Because their deliberations are private, there are not people called in to participate, or to inform, or to respond to questions. Why don’t they? Perhaps suspicion of self-interest. Or perhaps confidence in their own inspiration or intuition.

[LJA Diary, 6 Feb., 1978]

I’ve been feeling fine this week, although I get more disgusted with the spirit of bureaucracy, and also with the spirit of negativism which circulates in some quarters. I don’t like the fear that possesses many people about what will happen when Elder Benson becomes president. The Lord will decide that, and if the Lord chooses him he will be the right man and we need not fear it. 

[LJA to Children, 3 Mar., 1978]

Stan Kimball arranged an appointment with his Uncle Spencer last week. He wanted to complain about the so-called art work which the Church has commissioned–to complain in particular about the series of paintings to be placed in the new Information Center by Harry Anderson. These are paintings of different episodes in the life of Christ. He wanted to suggest that these were just illustrations–not creative art–and to emphasize that we have fine LDS artists. Stan made this point very strongly with President Kimball and told him he was making it only because he felt that other people around him would not level with him on this. He thought it was terrible that the Church should commission art by non-LDS–and art which was not creative but merely illustrative. He apologized for coming on so strong, but President Kimball said he appreciated his straightforwardness. He asked Stan what he should do. Stan said they should have some art competitions so that some of the LDS artists would have a chance to get involved.

I might say that most of us agree completely with Stan’s point of view on this and wish that we had some avenue for making the same point with the First Presidency. It is clear that President Kimball is a permissive kind of president–not the kind who would bring his influence to bear with Elder Mark Petersen and others who have been in charge of the art work for the information centers. 

[LJA Diary, 27 Mar., 1978]

Quentin [Cannon] said that he was president of the mission in Germany when Alvin Dyer was head of the European Mission, and he and Alvin Dyer often had disagreements. Quentin did not believe in the hard-sell methods of President Dyer. He said that Germans are philosophers and they do not respond well to the hard-sell approach. This is why we have made so few converts in Germany. They like to argue, to talk a thing through, and the missionaries are not prepared to do it and not psychologically conditioned to it. They tend to give people the lessons, and if they don’t respond they leave them and go to someone else. If they would be more patient and explore the subject more thoroughly and more philosophically, Quentin thinks the German listeners would be more receptive to the Gospel. I told him some of the things we were doing as a kind of soft-sell to help prepare people to be more receptive to the missionaries, and he seemed to believe this would be helpful in the long run. But he said you can’t get that idea through most of the General Authorities. In fact, giving them counsel in that vein is regarded by most of then as “steadying the ark” and they hold it against you. His wife spoke up and suggested that his blunt speaking in this regard with some General Authorities probably explains why he has never been appointed as a regional representative. Nearly all returned mission presidents have held that position for five years, but not he. 

[LJA Diary, 30 Mar., 1978]

In a conversation in Kirtland, Doug Alder suggested another explanation for the “flap” over STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS. Throughout the history of the Church, he said, there had been tension between the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. At some times the First Presidency had been more important, as under Brigham Young. At other tines, the Quorum of the Twelve had been powerful, as under Joseph Fielding Smith. There has been resentment by some of the Twelve over the role played by some counselors in the First Presidency. Thus, there was resentment against Sidney Rigdon during the Joseph Smith era, resentment against George Q. Cannon during the John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff eras, (and knowledge of this resentment may have prompted Lorenzo Snow to “put down” President Cannon when he (President Snow) became president), resentment against J. Reuben Clark, Jr., during the Heber J. Grant era, and resentment against Harold B. Lee during the Joseph Fielding Smith administration. There seems to have been some objection to the exercise of authority by Harold B. Lee on the part of Elders Benson and Peterson, and perhaps some objection to exercise of authority by N. Eldon Tanner during the McKay, Smith, Lee, and Kimball periods. Elder Benson seems to insist on the prerogatives of the Twelve and on preempting a Church point of view for the Twelve by early “speaking up” as happened in the STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS episode.

It was Doug’s feeling that the sentence in the preface to STORY OF THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS which involved the First Presidency in the project was the trigger for the initial reaction. It was his feeling that if we had not included that statement, but had merely published it under the authority of the Historical Department, that there would not have been as much resentment on the part of Elders Benson and Petersen. In their criticism of STORY OF THE-LATTER-DAY SAINTS was an implied criticism of the First Presidency for authorizing things they shouldn’t authorize. And implied also was a criticism of President Tanner and President Lee for appointing a person like me to the position of Church Historian, and an implied warning to President Kimball that he ought to watch me, restrain me, exercise direct supervision over me. 

[LJA Diary, 27 Apr., 1978]

When President Kimball made his inaugural address as president in April 1974, he stated that not only did he feel his inadequacy, but he would simply attempt to carry out the policies of his predecessor, President Lee. He gave the impression that he would be a caretaker president. One got the impression that he did not expect to serve as president very long, and did not feel complete confidence in making his own personality and policies felt. It seemed evident that the Lord has given him confidence and authority and security. At any rate, he has been one of the most innovative presidents in this century.

* The revelation of June 9 making the priesthood available to worthy blacks.

* The creation of emeritus General Authorities and the designation of seven persons to serve as emeritus members of the First Quorum of 70. Surely this paves the way for taking care of the problem of superannuated General Authorities, whose health status does not permit them to carry out the heavy responsibilities they are obligated to assume.

* The announcement that women may pray in any meeting in which they are present.

* The impending emphasis on local missionaries in the various countries where missionary work is done; that is, Bolivian missionaries doing missionary work in Bolivia, Chilean young people doing missionary work in Chile, young Tongans doing missionary work in Tonga, and so on. There was virtually none of this when he assumed office and now such local national missionaries are a substantial proportion of the total.

* The creation of the First Quorum of Seventy, making it possible to expand the number of General Authorities in a “natural’ way.

* The announcement of new temples in areas where there are acknowledged problems with the construction of temples: Japan, Brazil, Mexico City, and Samoa.

* The enormous expansion of overseas missionary work. The number of fulltime missionaries has increased by 50%; the number of convert baptisms has doubled. Organized stakes have done from 600 to nearly 1,000, and membership has increased from 3 to 4 million.

* President Kimball’s approval of his own biography by his son and grandson, which sets a precedent for “humanizing” the General Authorities, and in particular the prophets.

* Reducing General Conference from three days to two, and the multiplication of area conferences in many parts of the nation and world.

* The, appointment of full-blooded Indian as a General Authority of the Church.

* The announcement of the first additions to the canon of scripture in our century–the revelations of Joseph Smith and Joseph F. Smith, which were approved two years ago in General Conference. 

[Reflections on Conference; LJA Diary, 2 Oct., 1978]

The other day I had the opportunity of having a meal with a close friend of Elder Sill. He told me that Elder Sill had been personally disappointed at his failure to have been appointed as an apostle. He had had a number of reasons to suppose that he might have been appointed to the Quorum. He was bitter about the way certain people had neglected him and treated him rudely. He is a person who had a hard struggle, who was ambitious and industrious and energetic. He was obviously very intelligent and with a remarkable memory, and for someone who had striven so hard, he must surely have had reason to be disappointed. This makes all the more difficult his acceptance of the assignment of Emeritus member of the First Quorum of Seventy. I saw him walking to work, as is his custom, this morning, so he will presumably continue that exercise. Presumably the emeritus will keep their offices. It will be interesting to see how they are seated in the next general conference. Will they be seated after the “regular” members of the quorum? Grace and I heard Elder Sill give the devotional at BYU last Tuesday on the rebroadcast Tuesday night. It was one of the great sermons of his life. Considering that he is almost totally blind and cannot read, it reflected his remarkable memory. It was very eloquent and interesting. Grace thought it was great, as I did. Elder Sill came by our front row before one of the conference sessions and shook hands with me, and we got to talking with whomever sat next to me and Brother Sill told that person–I can’t recall who– that he sure did love Sister Arrington. If she were here now, he’d be grinning from ear to ear. We know that is true, too, because he does grin from ear to ear every time he meets her. He thinks she is delightful, and is the only General Authority that kisses her every time he sees her. 

[LJA Diary, 2 Oct., 1978]

On the trip today by chartered plane to Ricks College and return, I sat across the aisle from a close friend, well along in years, and closely acquainted with high church and government officials. Here are some of his statements to me:

1. Jim Faust is friendly, pleasant, very smooth, does the right thing to please those whom he wants to please. He is not a sharp person or profound thinker, average intelligence, and will never muddy the waters. Will not take a strong stand on certain matters and stick up for them. He was a protege of President Moyle, close to President Brown, to Franklin Richards, and to President Tanner. In short, well known by the Democrats. President Tanner, in particular, had proposed him for the apostle vacancy when Hugh Brown died, but Elder Benson was opposed and Elder Haight was sustained instead. This time, he was pushed again by Elder Tanner, and Elder Benson was not so vigorous, and so the appointment went through.

2. Elder Benson was brought into the Quorum through the influence of President Clark, although President Clark did not like him, and distrusted him because of his support of cooperatives. He regarded these as, somehow, one step in the direction of Communism. He was not close to Elder Benson and often argued with him. Elder Clark was a brilliant and persuasive man and, ultimately, may have won Elder Benson over to a conservative position. Brother Benson’s swing to ultra conservatism after his service in the Eisenhower cabinet was probably his disillusionment and disgust with the climate in Washington. He didn’t like dealing with the blacks and the Jews, the Commies and ultra liberals and others. And thought their influence satanic and inordinately strong. He was deeply impressed with the revelations of the McCarthy era, and apparently believed most of the charges made by McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, and others. He’d seen enough of this sort of thing in Washington to believe it.

3. President Tanner says he is tired, tired, and would like to be released. My friend thinks there is good likelihood that Presidents Tanner and Romney may be put on emeritus status at the next conference. Leave them in the Twelve to soften things a little. 

[LJA Diary, 20 Oct., 1978]

Yesterday when I was in Prove I had a little conversation with Keith Oakes that disturbed me very much, and I think I should record it here. Let me say first that we knew Keith and Carol in Logan in the early 1950s when he was a professor of educational administration at USU. He was a member of our little Sunday night study group, which included the Campbells, the Drakes, the Ellsworths, and so on. He had just finished his Ph D at USC, I think, was very intelligent and informed, and active in the Church. My recollection is that he was 31 when he married Carol, who was 21, and they had one or two little children about the ages of James and Carl. During the period he was there he was put on the East Cache Stake high council and was a very good one. He was a very honest person, but quite conservative–much more conservative, let’s say, than most of us who were in the study group. He was always defending the Church position and did so in a very articulate manner. In that respect he reminded me a little of Elder Boyd Packer, who is a very articulate conservative spokesman for the Church.

Anyway, Keith asked me yesterday how things were going. I told him very well but mentioned that we do have problems, particularly with Brother Benson and Brother Petersen, who do not necessarily approve of the kind of history we write. He said, I know exactly what you are up against. He reminded me that after he left USU to go to BYU and after he had served there as head of the department of ed administration, he had been appointed deputy administration of the Church School System, with authority over the Church schools in Hawaii, New Zealand, Mexico, Ricks College, and so on. After several years in that capacity, he had resigned. He did not enjoy being away from home so much and he was continually frustrated by the Church bureaucracy and certain General Authorities. 

Keith said that about six months ago when Dan Ludlow had succeeded in resigning as head of Church correlation, that his name had been strongly suggested to take Brother Ludlow’s place. There seemed to be general agreement that he would be a fine person, in view of his experience and conservative temper. Brother Benson, however, did not recall him and asked to have an interview with him. So Keith went to Elder Benson for the interview. The interview as repeated by Keith to me was somewhat as follows:

B: Brother Oakes, tell me the sort of thing you read. 

0: Well, since I’m a bishop and very heavily involved in my course work at BYU, I really don’t have much time to read anything but scripture.

B: Surely you read other things.

0: Yes, I try to keep up with my profession by reading education journals, and of course I read the Ensign, and occasionally I read other things.

B: What sort of other things?

0: Well, the newspaper, current news magazines and occasionally other magazines. 

B: Do you ever read any conservative magazines? 

0: Occasionally, yes, I do. 

B: Like what? 

0: The publications of the Freeman Institute and another magazines, whose name I don’t recall. 

B: Could that be Public Opinion 

0: Yes, I suppose that would be it. 

B: Don’t you subscribe to it?

0: No, but I do get mailings from the Freeman Institute.

B: You should subscribe to it. What political party do you affiliate with? 

0: The Republicans. 

B: (He looks like he’s frowning.)

0: Isn’t that the best party?

B: There’s not much difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. One is just as bad as the other. You should affiliate with the American party. They would give you a real base and they stand for basic Americanism.

0: (frowns a little and looks up questioningly)

B: Have you read A Choice, Not an Echo?

0: No.

B: You should read that. You should read other literature put out by these people. Do you belong to the John Birch Society?

0: No.

B: That would at least give you affiliation with a group which stands for real Americanism. I don’t belong myself for policy reasons, but I am free to recommend it to others. 

0: (Trying to change the subject) Since I am being considered for a position with correlation, I wonder if you could tell me more about it.

B: (then explains that it is not a Church service position but a job, which would require him to work in Salt Lake City and either move there or commute to Salt Lake City.)

0: (replies that he really is not interested in changing jobs. He is happy with the job he has at BYU and with his position as bishop, and feels that he is satisfied with the experience he has already had as a Church administrator.)

B: (them explains that he should talk further with those in charge of making the appointment.)

0: (did this later and withdrew his name from consideration. He told me that he was flabbergasted that Elder Benson in interviewing him for this important and sensitive position would have been concerned only with his political beliefs and posture.)

[LJA Diary, 26 Oct., 1978]

This is to record that I’ve been predicting since October conference that President Tanner and President Romney would be placed on emeritus status in April Conference and that new members of the First Presidency would be chosen. If so, I am predicting that Elder Hinckley and Elder Howard Hunter would be chosen as counselors. My predictions have never ever been correct, but I dutifully record them anyway!

[LJA Diary, 22 Feb., 1979]

I had a conversation today with one of the Church’s top administrators, a person I had not previously been very well acquainted with. I had the opportunity to mention The Mormon Experience. He asked me a number of questions and asked me to compare The Mormon Experience and Story of the Latter-day Saints. After my explanation he wanted to know whether we were prepared for the same kind of reception we received on the Story of the Latter-day Saints. I told him the various things we had done. He said that one of the most frustrating things in his organization and the discussion of policies and the adoption of policies which they must undertake is that as soon as one member of the Quorum makes any statement about any matter, that ends the discussion. Policy, in other words, is set on a rather haphazard basis. As soon as one apostle has made some statement about it, whether positive or negative, nobody wants to say anything further to cross him. Indeed, those General Authorities and administrators who think a certain measure should be adopted will not even express his reasons for  wanting it if an apostle has expressed some opinion about it, either for or against. He said this is surely not the most efficient way to run an organization. People should feel free to give reasons why they favor one kind of action or disfavor another, and a decision should be made as the result of full discussion—should not be cut off automatically as the result of one apostle making an offhand comment that wasn’t intended to be a “final” decision. He used as an example in our case Elder Benson making a statement about Story of the Latter-day Saints without having read the book himself and then no one else–not even President Kimball–would make any comment about it. As President Kimball told us privately, he had read the book himself and couldn’t see anything wrong with it. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Feb., 1979]

Two items worth putting in the diary. I learned this morning that Roger Porter, son of Blaine Porter, had been turned down as a possible faculty member at BYU. For several years the John Birchers have attempted to get Richard Vetterly as a professor of political science at BTU. This move has been effectively prevented by BYU administrators: Dallin Oaks, Martin Hickman, and the deans of the political science department. Recently, with a vacancy coming up, they wanted to employ Roger Porter. Roger had been a special assistant to Gerald Ford, has written some of his talks, graduated with an impeccable degree from Harvard, and Oxford University (as a Rhodes Scholar), and is one of the most respected young political scientists in the United States. The faculty voted to offer him the job. The head of the department took it to Martin Hickman, who enthusiastically supported it, as did Dallin Oaks. When his name was presented to the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Benson stated that he wanted to interview him. The interview took place for an hour or so, after which Elder Benson reported to President Oaks that he could not approve Roger. “He is too immature and too liberal.” This will not hurt Roger, of course; he has been offered better jobs at more prestigious universities; but it is a disturbing, discouraging action.

[LJA Diary, 7 June, 1979]

Moana Bennett telephoned this morning to say that she had been requested by Elder Petersen to leave out all reference to the Expositor incident in “Because of Elizabeth.” She wanted some alternative reason for the assassination of the Prophet and his brother. So what could she portray? I suggested she re-read chapter 3 on persecution in The Mormon Experience and re-read Bob Flanders’ Kingdom on the Mississippi, and bring out political, economic, and religious factors. None of these will be dramatic, but after all, the real reason–the compelling reason–was the destruction of the Expositor. If she has to leave that out then she’ll have to settle back on something less dramatic. She said she’d worried all night about it and couldn’t focus on any good alternative. I told her I thought her play was very historic and that in the absence of mentioning the Expositor she’d have to adapt what happened in Missouri and Ohio or maybe fudge something like Ton Sharp’s personal animosity against Joseph. She said, “It surely is difficult to follow the Brethren, isn’t it?” 

[LJA Diary, 18 Sept., 1979]

I suppose I should have added that there was one jarring note in conference-the talk of Elder Benson, which was to a large extent a political talk. I was told this morning that even Wallace Bennett, who is a loyal Churchman in every respect and a conservative Republican–even he thought the talk was inappropriate. I am told that he was really angry, furious. I also understand that many European and Latin American people found it hard to take. Latinos have always complained above all of the Monroe Doctrine, and Brother Benson placing the color of gospel on the Monroe Doctrine did not sit well with them.

[Reflections on General Conference; LJA Diary, 8 Oct., 1979]

Elder Durham said that he was in a meeting with the first Presidency yesterday and they are very, very tired. Elder Romney seemed the most alert of the three. Elder Tanner looks very tired. “He looks like he could stand a good rubdown and shower and go to bed.” Elder Hinckley is extremely busy with many important assignments–Bonneville and the media, the Sesquicentennial, public relations–many, many assignments.

[LJA Diary, 27 Mar., 1980]

George and Maurine Boyd came to the office this morning; said that they had decided to pursue with President Kimball (Maurine’s brother-in-law) the matter of the treatment given to Story of the Latter-day Saints. George finally was able to have an interview and as he told President Kimball about the treatment given to Jim, President Kimball wept and declared that this was not a Christian way to treat somebody who had performed satisfactorily an assignment. George is planning to tell Lowell Durham of the interview. George will probably write a letter to President Kimball and try to arrange a meeting with myself and Lowell Durham and President Kimball. President Kimball told George that Elder Benson did not have the right to stop the reprinting of the book–did not have the authority. We chatted about the matter for a half hour or so, and I informed him of what I knew.

George also said that he had learned the President Kimball in particular and the First Presidency in general were very angry about Elder Benson’s talk at BYU in which he made the statement that every word spoken by the current prophet must be regarded as from the Lord. They called Elder Benson in and scolded him and caused him to apologize to the First Presidency for those remarks. President Kimball declared that when the Lord spoke to him, that was one thing, but that the Lord did not speak to him on every topic and therefore it was Spencer Kimball talking, not the Lord. 

[LJA Diary, 17 Jun., 1980]

President Kimball looked as vigorous and as alert as ever, as did President Romney. President Tanner made only a few remarks, and looked gaunt and wasted away. His words made sense, but it is clear that he has suffered from some deterioration. We may not see him in another conference. I don’t understand why President Kimball doesn’t have mercy on him and give him emeritus status. 

[LJA Diary, 6 Oct., 1980]

There is a general opinion that the “boss” of Church employees is The Brethren. One works for the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and their appointees. One tries to do what they ask be done. One tries to follow their policies and procedures. One answers to them, and only to them.

In the case of historical endeavors, we have found this to be an impossible task. The Brethren are not one; they represent different points of view, different attitudes toward the kind of history that ought to be written, the kind of history that ought to be published, the kind of research that ought to be done. To attempt to follow The Brethren would bring only frustration, confusion, and defeat.

In recognition of this, we have tried to serve the informed LDS reader, with a wary eye for the observing General Authority. When the informed readers tell us our book, article, was “not so good,” we know we have failed. When these readers applaud, we take satisfaction in our work, even if a particular General Authority is critical or lukewarm.

Those church employees who seek first and foremost to serve the General Authorities must be very ambitious; have a false sense of what it means to be valiant in building the Kingdom. 

[LJA Diary, 14 Mar., 1981]

As indicated earlier in this diary, Elders Hinckley, Durham, and Olson spent several hours in the vault of the First Presidency looking through the minutes of the Council of the Fifty for mention of the occasion when in March 1844 Joseph Smith told the twelve he was removing from his own shoulders the burden of administering the Church and was placing it on the shoulders of the twelve. They did not find this mention in the minutes of the Council of Fifty, which is where they looked.

Over the weekend a certain person got access to Elder Hinckley and pointed out to him that when he asked for information to Elder Durham, it did not reach the historians, who knew things and where they were. He was surprised to learn this. We have now set up a channel whereby Elder Hinckley will also make contact directly with some of our fine historians. The item they are looking for in reference to the Twelve is in the journal of the Twelve, which is also in the vault of the First Presidency, and Elder Hinckley will presumably look for that this week. I hope fully he will call in one of our staff to help him. He is also asking our staff to provide other information in response to other questions.

I am grateful that someone got to him and that he now realizes that this new channel can be very fruitful to him. 

[LJA Diary, 23 Mar., 1981]

There are two kinds of administrators–or at least two kinds. First, there is the administrator who thinks his primary job is preventing anybody from doing anything he shouldn’t. I see this as the major characteristic of many administrators in the Church Office Building, particularly those who have had no training in business administration, and not much higher education. I see this as the characteristic of Earl Olson. Second, the administrator who positively works to try to get the personnel under him to do what they should, or trying to decide under what conditions the rules ought to be relaxed. This is the kind of administrator I wish Earl Olson was. He is too busy enforcing the rules to try to consider what is really the best thing to do, rules or no rules. 

[LJA Diary, 30 May, 1981]

I have been informed that President Kimball is not very alert and perceptive now days–not “with it” in all matters. That seems a little difficult to believe in view of his trip to Latin America to dedicate the grounds for the temples in Peru and Chile. Nevertheless, that is what I have been told. I have been told also that President Benson is ailing. The most vigorous person in Church Administration–the real power in the administration- I am told is Elder Petersen whose health is remarkably good. He is vigorous mentally and physically. 

[LJA Diary, 2 Jun., 1981]

Received a telephone call this morning from a High Priest in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake City. He said that he was involved in a case years ago in which they had to counsel a couple about abortion. They found a statement of the First Presidency apparently the one dated April 14, 1969, which has not been published. They made their decision on the basis of that statement. Since the statement of the First Presidency in 1973 is slightly different, less permissive, he would like to have a copy of the 1969 statement to defend himself for the action he took. He found his ward library inadequate on 1969 materials and so came to the Historical Department. He was referred to Tom Truitt. Tom furnished him with copies of several statements of the First Presidency but would not furnish him the 1969 statement. Tom explained that they had been “de-indexed” meaning that one can no longer find it indexed in their files. “Why was it de-indexed?” “Well because we believe in continuous revelation and that statement has been superseded, and anyway that statement did not represent the considered opinion of the First Presidency. It was simply a statement prepared by the L.D.S. Social Services which the First Presidency signed on a proforma basis.” “Well couldn’t you get me a copy of it?” “No, I am sorry we are no longer supplying that to people.”

This person then says he went to John Hardy of the First President’s Office and asked him for it. Brother Hardy took essentially the same position: “this no longer represents the opinion of the First Presidency and therefore we can not supply you with a copy of it.”

The person then asked me if I could get a copy. Our indexes do not show that it was published in the Church News or the Era. I found it only in Lester Bush’s article in Dialogue, Autumn 1976, p. 27. 

[LJA Diary, 25 Jun., 1981]

I spent most of a day, Wednesday, talking with Newsweek people about the article due to appear next Tuesday on History and the Church. Our own bureaucracy is something to behold, with their fear of doing anything that might resemble “cooperation” with a columnist in whom they have little trust. It is despicable, and works against the Church’s interest, even though it protects some individuals from criticism. But the Gospel is still true and we still have to keep working to preserve its noblest teachings and ideals. 

[LJA to Children, 29 Jan., 1982]

Proposed as the dedication for Brigham Young biography. Dropped.


To Elder Rameumptum J. Moriancumr who, by his stupid regulations and irritating bureaucratic pronouncements, has helped me understand Brigham Young’s impatience with self-important people of his own day, thus provoking some of the colorful language which I am delighted to reproduce in this biography.

[Proposed Dedication for BY Biography; LJA Diary, 1 Jun., 1983]

Elder Petersen was buried yesterday. Speakers at his funeral in the Tabernacle included Elder Benson, Elder Hinckley, Elder Packer, and Elder Monson. Elder Monson spoke of his role with the Deseret News and Church News. He wrote editorials for 53 years. According to my understanding he has written all, or nearly all of the editorials in the Church News. Who will write them now? Will their character change?

People are beginning to speculate about the vacancy on the Twelve. There has existed one vacancy since LeGrande Richards died. Now there are two. If they couldn’t fill the vacancy of Elder Richards because President Kimball was not able to do it, will they be forced to fill both of them now? Who will write editorials for the Church News? Who will direct the church exhibits? Who will direct missionary work? Elder Petersen had enormous influence in many directions. Who will take over his work? 

[LJA Diary, 17 Jan., 1984]

Mike Quinn telephoned me today with an incredible story. A history student with a minor in church history at BYU, a convert from Catholicism, had done a master’s thesis which was a demographic study of early Kirtland. The thesis had gone through the committee, had been read by the exam chairman, who was Keith Perkins, and he had passed the final exam before a committee, which included Mike, Keith, and Kenzell, the Jewish professor of history at the Y who had directed the thesis. Everybody regarded it as an outstanding thesis, and the papers had been signed that he had passed.

The thesis had then been turned over to Milt Backman, head of church history. Milt then came back to Keith saying that the thesis wasn’t faith promoting enough and that he would have to rewrite the first two chapters. He as chairman of church history couldn’t approve a thesis which the Brethren would think wasn’t sufficiently faith-promoting in tone and subject-matter. And this after the committee had already approved it! Apparently Milt persuaded Keith Perkins to insist on the revision, the rewriting.

The student had come to Mike and asked if this had to be done. Mike will talk with Jim Allen. He thinks it is too late to require the student to do any rewriting.

Mike (and I) are dismayed about the image this gives to Church History at BYU. What image does it give to the Catholic convert? To the Jewish professor? To the student? The latter, incidentally, was called in by Keith Perkins who used the following argument with him: “You know, if you let this thesis go through the way it is you might hamper your chance to be a bishop, or a stake president!” Great argument! 

[LJA Diary, 4 Feb., 1984]

Also revolutionary was the move to appoint Seventies to terms of three to five years. Until all present Seventies die, there will be two classes of Seventies-those appointed for life and those under the new regimen. This will be complicating, but makes possible an arrangement to solve the problem of seniority that has plagued the church for so long. History-making! Revolutionary!

Then consider the splendid new appointments to the Twelve. Dr. Russell Nelson is the first surgeon ever, first physician ever, among the General Authorities. True, Willard Richards was called a doctor, but he was not a trained doctor. He spent two weeks with an herbalist in Massachusetts and paid $20 for a license , and he was the seventh son. That was the extent of his training. So I would hardly call him a physician, and he certainly was not an MD. Russell Nelson is intelligent, a fine politician, a fine speaker and writer, and has connections with professional people in the Church. His autobiography, Heart to Heart, is one of the fine ones.

Dallin Oaks is the first of our Dialogue alums to go into the Twelve. He is a brilliant man, brilliant conversationalist, brilliant writer, a forthright and honest realist who will also bring spirituality to the Twelve. One mustn’t overlook his Twin Falls beginnings either. Everybody is very puzzled about his election. We had all understood that Elder Benson thought he was too liberal as president of BYU and suggested that his earlier resignation be accepted. How then could he be moved into the Twelve now? Either one of three explanations: (1) Our original information about the firing might have been wrong. (2) Elder Benson might have changed his mind. (3) The Lord may have intervened. President Hinckley suggested the third in conference. I believe it. Since the death of President Brown we intellectuals, or so-called intellectuals, have not had a kindred soul in the Twelve or First Presidency. Now we have one!

I enjoyed all the talks. President Benson gave the finest talk I remember him ever giving. Howard Hunter was up to his usual quality sermon. Marvin J. Ashton’s was splendid. John Carmack, one of the new Seventies, has been a friend since we were in Pacific Palisades. He will be great, as will Spencer Osborne, who was mission president in Tallahassee when we were there speaking in 1977. Philip Sontaag will also be splendid. I don’t know the others.

[LJA to Children, 9 Apr., 1984]

When I was in the USU Stake Presidency, Wendell Rich, director of the Institute, gave a talk on Covenants which impressed me, and all of us. I’ve seen a number of articles since then on Covenants, and heard several talks. The obvious intention is to get us to live up to our Covenants. And of course this is good. But I would like to say a word about rules, commandments, laws, regulations, and we are supposed to obey them. My reading of the Scriptures, my experience in life, my faith in God, suggests the importance of leniency, God’s leniency with us and our leniency with God. When we make an agreement, a contract, it always ends up being very specific and detailed. One makes these agreements because we trust each other and feel a certain friendship. When the other person does not live up to the agreement, violates one of the provisions, one has a choice: insist on the conditions of the agreement, thus ending the relationship, or going back to the pre-agreement condition. If the friendship endures, they return to their pre-agreement relationship and renegotiate on the basis of what they both wanted to achieve. One can’t write leniency into a contract, but one can write it into his/her heart. This is my view of the relationship between us and God. He lays down certain rules, but He loves us more than the rules and is willing to renegotiate, we give up something He gives up something. It is the same in marriage, in parenthood, in running a business, in running an organization.

I am thinking this minute of some church bureaucrats who administer rules and regulations. One would suspect that if they are administrators they are paid to use their judgment. Some that I knew would not exercise judgment. A rule is a rule and to exercise judgment is to bend a rule. But no rule can apply fairly to every situation, which is why there are administrators. God is the ultimate administrator and clearly He bends rules when other matters enter in that are more important. We should imitate Him when we are in a similar situation-as little administrators of our families, our businesses, our organizations.

Anyway, sermon for the day.

[LJA to Children, 29 Nov., 1987]

Conference was not completely satisfying to me. None of the talks were intellectually exiting—usually one or two are, but not this time. No new program announced. There was some reshuffling of General Authorities, but no new appointments. Some were put on emeritus status, but only Seventies—no apostles. President Benson did not speak, but his message was read by Pres. Monson. It dealt with being kind to old people, so take due heed. The best talks, I thought, were those of Russell Nelson on women and Howard Hunter, who I’ve always liked and who, I think, would make a great president if he lives to become one.

The shortcomings of the conference, from my point of view, were two. Having only one woman speak, and as a Primary officer she told a story. Told it wonderfully, but why not a woman to give a substantive talk as well. The other problem, in my judgment, was an excess of adulation for the president. Worse than the Catholics for the Pope! They got carried away, I think. It is unhealthy, I think, to adore the President, as if he is not capable of human error. As a historian who has seen human error in all the Prophets, both early and recent, I think this is not a healthy trend.

[LJA to Children, 2 Oct., 1989]

I was not able to be at Sunstone the last two years on account of the Idaho history, but was glad I could attend this one. The most surprising event was the allegation, in a question period, by Eugene England that the church keeps secret files on intellectuals, a fact which we have known but has not been publicly acknowledged. Now it is out in the open and I am glad. Maybe the LDS FBI will cut down on its nefarious influence.

[LJA to Children, 10 Aug., 1992]

There’ve been articles in the paper on the First Presidency committee on strengthening the members of the church that keeps files on us intellectuals and occasionally asks stake presidents to call us in to check on our loyalty. I’m glad it’s out in the open. The church’s activity in this regard has been indefensible, and I hope this public outcry will cause them to be more circumspect in their intimidation of historians and other writers.

[LJA to Children, 15 Aug., 1992]

Things I don’t like about the church

1. The imposition of one pattern for everybody rather than suggesting two or three patterns and letting local wards or stakes or districts follow the one most convenient for them. Examples, the three-hour meeting schedule on Sunday.

2. Appointing the highest tithe payers to positions of leadership rather than the most capable or worthy. In choosing stake leaders, the General Authority comes with a list of the 15 or 20 highest tithe payers and starts down the list to choose a stake president and high council.

3. The maintenance of a disloyalty file on liberals, including articles they’ve written with questionable statements, newspaper clippings. These are used against the person without him or her knowing what is in the file and having a chance to deny it or explain it. The supposition is that liberals are out to destroy or embarrass the church, a supposition entirely false.

4. The insistence on unanimity among the Twelve, which means that the most obstinate member, the one holding out against the rest, wins.

5. The insistence on choosing a new president from the senior member of the Twelve. This means we’ll always have a president far beyond his energetic, creative period of life. We should retire persons from the Twelve at age 75 and never choose anyone over that age to be president of the Church.

6. The First Presidency and Twelve should call a person in to talk with him/her before putting the person on the blacklist, not to be cited, his/her books not to be sold in Church bookstores, not to be allowed to speak in Church, etc.

7. The church should allow historians to present “human” material in biographies of presidents and General Authorities.

8. We should allow women to be associates to the Twelve and sit in on their meetings. The Relief Society president should sit in on bishopric meetings. Mothers should be allowed to stand in the circle to bless babies, confirm newly baptized persons as members of the Church, just as they now can open and close meetings with prayer.

9. The manuals used in adult Sunday School, Priesthood, and Relief Society classes are absolutely hopeless. Using the same gospel doctrine manual every fourth year; the same with Priesthood manuals. Hopeless. Why can’t they assign a skilled and experienced writer to do a new manual every year? 

[Things I don’t like about the church; LJA Diary, 17 Aug., 1992]

I was in Provo yesterday for my class and also to introduce Gerald Nash at the opening lecture in the Charles Redd series at BYU. I learned that BYU had offered each of the major parties an opportunity to speak to the BYUstudent body, and yesterday Ronald Reagan was there to discuss Republicanism.He had a large audience. Persons thought his talk was fine and appropriate andwell done. Apparently the student who gave the closing prayer, however,revolted many people–some of those who mentioned it to me said they felt likevomiting because he prayed that “we all might leave those parties and commitmentswhich are foreign to thee and join the party which we know represents Thywishes” and went on in this vein.

Observers said that Reagan was given three standing applauses and in eachinstance Elder Benson who was present representing the Church led in the standingapplause. They reported that in each instance Dallin Oaks who was seated rightnext to him remained seated. This certainly required courage for him to do that.Today an assembly is held with Governor Rampton as speaker representing theDemocratic party. It will be interesting to see if the crowd is as large andwhether they give him standing applause and whether there is anyone representingthe Church equivalent to Elder Benson and whether that person joins in a standingovation. We will see whether the Church plays this game equally.

[LJA Diary, 28 Oct., 1976]

My problems with the Church bureaucracy boil down to three factors:

(1) Many church employees continue to be persons without very much education,and these tend to be both narrow and jealous. They are persons without imaginationor wide understanding and thus tend to go by some rule of thumb or some literalinterpretation of some instruction they were given years ago by some authority.

(2) The widespread feeling, and instruction, that one should clear with everyonebefore anything is done. If one mentions education or the history of education,he should be certain that the people in the education department approve of everything being written or said. If one mentions Aaronic Priesthood, it should besomething approved by the PB0 and the relevant officials. And of course nothingimportant should be done without the approval of THE TWELVE, and any singleobjection, or hint of objection by any of them is sufficient to throw an ideaor thought or suggestion overboard. And on almost any proposal, one of theTwelve will hint at some difficulty or problem or objection, sufficient to throwit into question and therefore into the dustheap. 

(3) The widespread feelingthat the thinking must begin at the top and filter down through the hierarchy.No good can come out of Nazareth-it must come out of Salt Lake City. Andnot only Salt Lake City but out of the Church Office Building. And not only outof Church Headquarters, but out of the 19th floor or 26th floor where theTwelve and the First Presidency have their offices. Nothing could put morestrains on imaginative programming than the feeling that if it did not come from a General Authority, it should not have been thought of. It is suspectimmediately if it comes from any other source.

My own response is that the Church of the future will be grateful for whatwe do, we must do it even by fighting the bureaucracy, and we- must expect tolose many of our fights with officialdom, and expect heavy criticism. But in the interest of the Church, in the interest of the Lord, we should persevere.

[LJA Diary, 2 Nov., 1976]

One thing about the controversy over The Story of the Latter-day Saints which was demonstrated is that the prophet is not always a determiningforce in Church government. What we really have is a form of collectiveleadership consisting of the three members of the First Presidency and thetwelve members of the quorum of the Twelve. This collective leadershipmust be essentially unanimous. If any particular person expresses a strongfeeling about a particular matter, his views will normally prevail throughthe courtesy of the others. Thus, although President Kimball indicatedhe likes very much The Story of the Latter-day Saints and would approveit for the wide-spread distribution among and use by the Saints, strongnegative feelings had already been expressed by Elders Benson and Petersonand President Kimball did not wish to embarrass them or to go against their wishes with the result that their wishes prevailed. If they had waiteduntil the prophet had expressed his own view then that would have prevailed,of course.

I was talking on the telephone yesterday with Cal Rudd and he expressedto me his own strong misgivings about Story of the Latter-day Saints andpractically admitted without saying so directly that he was indeed theprincipal author of the critique of Story of the Latter-day Saints which wasread by President Benson in our meeting with the First Presidency and whichwas read in the meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve. He also said thatBrothers Peterson and Benson were very angry with me for my approval andintroduction to The Story of the Latter-day Saints. He said this two orthree times in very strong language as if they were very angry and irritatedwith me. He probably wonders why I am so complacent, why it does notupset me to know that they were angry with me.

[LJA Diary, 3 Dec., 1976]

My experience in working for the Church for, now, almost five yearssuggests several comments:

First, I find the Church, in most instances, to be a beneficent employer.That is, the Church will be compassionate with an employee in a manner thata private employer would not be. It will work with a homosexual, with acripple, with a retardee, with a person in bad health, with a person undergoing mental health problems. It will try to salvage a life, a situation,a deteriorating health or social or family relationship.

Second, the Church, being led primarily by older people, will attemptto get by as cheaply as possible, will pay less than competitive businessespay, will grant smaller increases than private businesses will grant, willresist upgrading salary scales, will feel that the Church should pay less than competitive salaries. The Church will lag behind other businesses and institutions, introducing improvements in itssalary scales, will make changes reluctantly and grudgingly.

Third, in positions like mine which are “sensitive” the security isless than in a university, in the Federal government, in private business.One feels more insecure because he is subject to arbitrary action by anymember of the Quorum of the Twelve, and he sees every week examples ofsuch arbitrary action.

Fourth, there are administrative problems in dealing with the hierarchy.Some of these are the product of the particular personalities. Our ownexperience is somewhat as follows. We want to determine a matter of policy.We take it to Elder Anderson. Elder Anderson does not make a decision–almostnever does he make a decision. He recommends we take that question to theAdvisors to the Twe1e. The Advisors almost never make a decision; theyrecommend we take it to the First Presidency. We do not receive answerson many of the questions we take to the First Presidency: The FirstPresidency wants to discuss it with the Twelve. It never gets on the agenda of the Twelve, or if it does make the agenda, they don’t get toit. Or if they get to it someone asks a question about it which ourAdvisors can’t answer, so it is referred to them to get the answer. Theysubsequently ask us the question, we provide an answer, they go back withit to the Twelve. By that time, the Twelve have another question. We havehad several of our proposals follow precisely this route, with no decisionin a year or even two. This has happened on our proposal for a six-volumebiography of Brigham Young, on our proposal to do a study of the operationof plural marriage, and on other matters of this type. This could be solvedvery easily if the Twelve would have one of us outside their Councilroom during the discussion, prepared to give an answer to any questionsthat might be asked.

Fifth, we have observed instances in which a member of the Twelve“sounded off” about our work without really knowing what we were trying to do or why, and without consulting us, our advisors, or our managing director,and without giving them or us a chance to “answer” the charges. We also have experienced only one instance (S. Dilworth Young’s letter on the Woolley biog) in which we have been praised or appreciation expressed for any of our books, articles, or any other accomplishment. Itis normal for an employee to expect occasional expressions of appreciationfor his work, and we try to do this for our own employees. But with all thebooks we have published, and articles, we have never had written or oralcommunications from Elder Anderson, our Advisors, members of the Quorum of the Twelve, or the First Presidency about them. As if each is fearful of putting something in writing which would later embarrass him. One almost feelsthat the bureaucracy and the hierarchy fail to use the Gospel in their dealing with their own appointees and, instead, rely on legalistic pronouncementsand coercive administrative power. I have never seen a group of people so afraid to do something, so fearful of doing wrong, terrorized by thepossibility of vindictiveness. And this is a Church!

[LJA Diary, 12 Dec., 1976]

Each person thinks he owns the Church. That is, he feels that he has botha right and an obligation to set the Church right on any matter in which he feelsit is departing from the right path. Or, rather, not the Church, but any bishop, or home teacher, or Relief Society president, or simply a neighbor. Ifhis ideas are wrong, he should be told so, and each member feels he has theright to do so.

What I am thinking of is the common occurrence of two practices: fathers and mothers of students at BYU writing to general authorities and officials ofBYU to tell them that some professor is giving false doctrine in his classes;and members of the Church, writing to general authorities of the Church tocomplain about what some scholar or writer has put in a book. I have not hadmuch experience with the first of the two, but do know that it does occur withsome frequency. I have had-and am having-experience with the second. Somemember sees an encyclopedia write-up of the Church, does not think it presentsthe right image, and therefore complains. He complains to the encyclopedia, toa general authority, to the historian, to everyone. The general authoritywrites the author of the piece, and the author has to justify what he has done.I write am article on the Word of Wisdom. Someone complains to a GeneralAuthority. The General Authority writes to the president of BYU. The president of BYU calls the dean. The dean calls me in. The dean tells me itlooks o.k. to him, but since the general authority complained, I must writehim a letter of apology. This is the way to be creative? This is the wayof academic freedom? This is the way of history?

[LJA Diary, 19 Dec., 1976]